This book presents the first strictly secular exposition of how and why the concept of “the Messiah” came to loom so large in both Jewish and Christian culture. Conventional treatments of this question, which are not very numerous, treat the Messianic ideal as something that fell from the skies as a prefiguring of the Redeemer who was to come. But from the standpoint of secular historiography, It is evident that this ideal was the creation of the hopes and dreams of the many millions of Jews who fought to make it a reality several thousand years ago. Why did the Messianic ideal assume the form that it did, and why did Jewish and Christian understandings of this ideal eventually diverge so sharply? These are the questions which this book answers in an objective, well documented and systematic way..